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Showing 1-10 of 65 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 122 reviews
on May 1, 2016
I ran across this book by accident, and I never heard of John Wood or his organization “Rooms to Read.” But wow, it’s a story worth reading. It touched my soul.

I wish I had his courage. This guy knew his current life style wasn’t working, so he did something about it without any real security to fall back on. Not only did he leave a well-paying position at Microsoft, but he also left the love of his life. She wanted to follow her heart in the corporate world, and he wanted to do service work in Nepal, which would give him the opportunity to help some of the poorest people in the world with an education. They still loved each other, but their desires and choices put them in different parts of the world. He just knew he had to be true to himself.

Many of his friends and family thought he was crazy and would regret making this decision, but he knew it was the right thing to do. John always wanted to purchase one of those beautiful homes in San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. But after seven years, with all of his success at “Rooms to Read,” he shared that he still didn’t have a life’s partner, nor could he afford one of those beautiful homes overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Nevertheless, he knew, he was right where he belonged.

I wish he had shared more about the staffing and training of those who taught and worked in these schools and libraries, but I’ll still give this book a five star rating.
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on June 25, 2008
The true account of a man who gave up a dream job and the business fast track, security, a personal life, and his dream of owning a house to build libraries and schools in the poorest countries and stock them with books. A caring and brilliant businessman. An inspiring and brave story. I love the way he thinks and writes. I had one question throughout the book. Mr. Wood thought he had enough money saved to support himself for about five years. More than five years went by, but he didn't mention how he continued to have the money to feed, house, and clothe himself. He never mentioned collecting a pay check or receiving personal donations.

Very inspiring. If you liked this book you will love Three Cups of Tea which is a similar story, but written by a man who started with nothing at all and hadn't the faintest idea how to proceed with building schools.
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on November 3, 2013
The author does an excellent job of describing his moment of discovery of the fact that where you are born can, and probably will, determine your opportunities in life. Especially true in the poorest countries economically, though they may be rich in human capital. His realization that he can make an appreciable difference in the lives and futures of the children without a huge investment of time or money, just by asking others to join in, is both a revelation and a springboard to do more. The positive momentum that is created with the enthusiasm of all involved, and the explosive growth of what started as books for one school, begs the question of why not every child?

Reading the stories of people that he encountered, you get a sense of someone perhaps in the next town, rather than halfway around the world. And that is the story that John Wood is telling, that each of these children deserves a chance to learn, to get an education, to participate in making our world a better place for everyone. He has created the organization to make it happen, we just need to get on board and work together to ensure it does! If you can't imagine not being able to read, if you remember not wanting to put down that good book, if you were one who read by flashlight under the covers as a child, you will want to read this book and share it with others.
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on December 24, 2012
John Wood went from a high-energy, GSD-focussed career at Microsoft to a high-energy, GSD-focussed charity founder. (GSD is an acronym for "Getting S*** Done", and the author uses the term several times.)

This is not so unusual: many successful business people, from Andrew Carnegie to Henry Ford to Bill Gates, have had "second act" careers as philanthropists. Wood simply started his early.

This book offers a first-person view of both careers with more chapters for the latter. I'm a fan of memoirs by successful people writing about their areas of expertise. This book delivers in full. In particular, I enjoyed the glimpses of Wood's network of high-energy, hyper-effective friends and colleagues. I aspire to be more like that.

On the downside, Wood writes as if he invented the idea of founding a charity. This is mostly okay, because this book is Wood's story. If you want more stories, read more books. However, Wood also neglects an important area: measuring and reporting results. Sometimes he mentions milestones such as number of libraries built, but he doesn't report anything such as improved scores on college entrance exams. In this age, charities should be accountable for results -- I'd like to see a chapter or two about that, with some actual stats.

On balance, though, I enjoyed this memoir about a go-getter who has built thousands of schools and libraries.
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on September 19, 2009
I tore right through this book. It takes you on John Wood's journey from being a Microsoft executive on a backpacking trip to the founder of Room to Read, which has affected the lives of over 3 million children in eight 3rd world countries.

There are fun stories of John's personal history, he showed signs of determination and entrepreneurship from a young age. Then there are tales of Microsoft, it was fascinating to read of the discipline and perspective that was expected at Microsoft, and of the personalities (especially Steve Ballmer, the current CEO). There are also glimpses of John's very human side.

John builds communities to make his vision so successful. To raise money, John targets rich communities around the world: San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, etc., and finds volunteers who live in those cities to fundraise for him.

At the receiving end, when Room to Read provides funds for a library or school they mandate that the community bear half of the cost. Locals provide volunteer labor to build the building, haul the materials through mountain passes, etc. This means that locals have "skin in the game" and become committed to the success of what is being built.

John Wood has figured how to be a conduit of money from wealthy donors around the world directly to the poorest children. He has met this need better than any government. Seeing how John brought his talents to Microsoft and to Room to Read, and has done fantastically at both was fun.

A poignant point for me is that John is just like successful people you've met at college, graduate school, or in the workplace. What he did differently is that he went off the beaten path and did something "game-changing." Yes, he had over a million dollars from stock options that he was able to use to support himself, but so had 10,000 other people who had worked at Microsoft.

Hopefully John will write a sequel, and bring us along as he meets and addresses the challenges as his organization grows. Ok, now it's time for me to go write a check ;-)
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on December 1, 2011
I have made it a habit to only buy books that I have first borrowed from the library and believe to be worthy of rereading, sharing, or at least referring to for years to come. Leaving Microsoft to Change the World is such a book. Author John Wood is the founder of Room to Read a non profit organization that is providing entire libraries, schools, computer labs, educational scholarships and more to severely impoverished communities within Asia and Africa. Wood chronicles how a singular promise to provide books to a school in Nepal evolves into a movement with multitudes of individuals and groups that share his dream of bringing peace and prosperity to all communities by educating the children. Wood's storytelling perspective is that of the foundation's director. He explains how he transferred his lucrative business expertise in pitching Microsoft software to 'selling' the idea that successful individuals worldwide can bestow the same privilege of education that was afforded them upon others who were born in less favorable circumstances. The beauty of the Room to Read project is that the eager community members that receive 'outside' help are the ones who really make the change happen. Readers will be convinced of the adage 'the less you have the more you give' after reading the heroic stories that Wood relates. In his book Wood focuses primarily on networking and fundraising methods that drew generous contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations that have what I consider to be inconceivable financial means. However, the Room to Read website demonstrates how the majority of us can donate within our own more humble means and make an extraordinary difference in the lives of our fellow human beings-[...]
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on July 27, 2013
Heard John Wood on NPR this morning. Downloaded the Kindle the entire book this morning. Very good book. I think everyone can identify with the theme of this book. Be prepared to become emotionally involved with what John Wood has accomplished.

One slight editorial correction regarding Bill and Melinda Gates and the childhood vaccination program. The Gates Foundation was a major catalyst for fundraising. However it seemed strange that the genesis of the Polio Plus program was ignored. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the oral polio vaccine, suggested that all children of the world be immunized.

Rotary International, along with the World Health Organization, organized the Polio Plus effort and Rotary has provided almost a billion dollars in funding.None of this was mentioned and the impression left with the reader was that Bill Gates organized this effort. Not true.
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on June 24, 2008
Like a 2-out single that sparks a multirun bottom-of-the-ninth comeback, John Wood's story is most exciting due to the couldn't-have-seen-that-coming factor. What started as a vacation turned into a small idea, which exploded into one of the coolest charities I've read about. In fact, I was so inspired by this story that I wrote to John Wood immediately after I was finished (requesting a job because we know where Sp... ah.. my company.. is headed).

But what is the story?
In Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, John Wood is on a small sabbatical (in Nepal) from blossoming Microsoft. There, he discovers the country's intense need of books, libraries, and schools and its childrens' more intense desire to learn. He promises to return with books (on top of the pictured yak). What follows is an absolute eruption of giving from John's friends and family. Funding and providing books for one library soon turns into John leaving his killer position at Microsoft to work on his charity full time. Now, Room to Read (the charity) is present in seven countries in Asia and Africa building libraries, schools, and funding education.

Not just a success story...
Perhaps the part I enjoyed most about the book is that it does not only talk about how his charity started, but it discusses entrepreneurship, management theories, and other business ideas. It seems that business lessons learned by John apply strongly to successful for-profit organizations as well. Perhaps what stands out the most is how lean, focused, and passionate his company is.

Anyone can do it
As long as you've, you know, worked at a skyrocketing tech company, have millions of dollars of stock options, and the ability to quit receiving a salary for years at a time and still travel to third world countries. Admittedly, the author talks about how anyone can get involved, but it sure makes following your dreams easier when you've got the money to do so.

"It will make you want to quit your job."
Well, I was warned (Jeff) before I started to read that it would make me want to quit my job. It's true, a social improvement job is a lot more appealing than SQL. Leaving Microsoft starts out interesting and only improves. It is not a particularly difficult read, either, so that, coupled with how much fun it is to see Room to Read succeed makes this a rather quick read. At best, you'll be inspired to "dive in" (the author's words); at worst, you'll be entertained for a couple hours' worth of reading.

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World Rating: 84 / 100
Writing Style: 7 / 10
Finish-the-chapter-before-bed Factor: 8.5 / 10
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on September 26, 2006
Anyone who has ever questioned whether individuals can make a difference and change the world of poverty and illiteracy in our poorest nations should read this book--and be prepared to be convinced and inspired! This book describes the journey of John Wood, a Microsoft marketer burned out by the rat race and trekking through Nepal, who rediscovers meaning and purpose in this impoverished nation whose people yearn for education but are hampered by lack of resources, illiteracy rates of 70%, and no books in village schools. Moved by the villagers' passion and commitment for learning, Wood sends a simple email request to friends for used children's books. The response he receives is overwhelming, providing the seeds for Room to Read, a nonprofit organization he founded with his colleagues to develop schools and libraries to educate children in poor countries.

Leaving Microsoft and a generous salary to fulfill his new mission, Wood admits having no idea what to do or how when he started out. In this book he chronicles the nitty gritty of leaving the corporate world to develop partnerships with local villagers and raise funds from like-minded volunteers eager to make a difference. He shares his learning with us, building on his business expertise and experience at Microsoft to set things in motion. To make a difference and change the world, Wood advises us to "Just dive in...think big" --and shows us the passion, courage, and commitment needed for success.

For an inspiring read, give this book a try. It's a human tale of diving in and making a difference at its best.
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on May 8, 2009
What John Wood did when he left Microsoft to "change the world" wasn't that risky. Had the effort failed, he would still have been young, talented and with money in the bank. What is significant about his decision wasn't any potential risk, but rather the courage and determination he showed in leaving both his familiar and lucrative corporate life and also his girlfriend behind. Many dream of doing what John Wood did, but he actually took the initiative and made the sacrifices. As a result, he is reaping the rewards of personal satisfaction as he sees countless children throughout the developing world receiving an education because of his efforts and the financial backing of those who share his vision.

This book is perhaps longer than it needed to be, but it is a fast read. It's as if the pace of writing matches what seems to be the rush of his life as CEO of a successful non-profit.

Hats off to John Wood and everyone with Room to Read.
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